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Honesty, Integrity and Commitment in a Turbulent Marketplace

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By Kayla O'Brien

RISMEDIA, March 18, 2009-Honesty, integrity and commitment are three pillars that Edina Realty Home Services has been standing on for the past 53 years, and three of the main reasons as to how the company has been able to claim their spot as a leader in their marketplace. Here, Bob Peltier, President & CEO, explains how the company’s sturdy foundation has gotten them through the turbulent market and has put them in a position poised for future success.

Bob Peltier
President & CEO
Edina Realty Home Services
Edina, Minnesota

Years in the industry: 30
Number of offices: 72
Number of agents: Approximately 2,500
Region served: Minnesota and Western Wisconsin, with an office in Fargo, North Dakota
Average sales price: $237,000 at the end of 2008 in the 13-county Twin Cities metro, our predominate market. The median sales price was $195,000 in 2008, according to the Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS®
Average listing time: 158 days
A creative ad campaign we’ve run…Last year’s ad campaign was tremendously creative and it was so successful, we are using most of it again this year. This campaign capitalized on Edina Realty’s leadership in bringing buyers and sellers together for real estate transactions – in fact, we handled 50% more closed transactions than our next closest competitor last year. Created by BBDO Minneapolis, the ad featured two very unexpected “business partners” seated together on a red couch, and the theme was: “We help buyers and sellers find each other.”

The goal of the campaign was to drive consumers to the website and business to our agents who can help bring buyers and sellers together. The campaign took us totally out of television and put a full motion video online – something we hadn’t done before. It also included banner advertising on many websites such as yahoo.com and weather.com, as well as some billboard advertising, elevator door wraps and more. We received more P.R. from this campaign than any past campaign and BBDO won several awards for it as well.

We’re standing apart in today’s marketplace by… our honesty, integrity and commitment. Our company has been built on those three values for 53 years and we’re not about to change that now. We are the most recognized company in our marketplace, we list more homes on our website, belong to more MLS boards and handle far more closed transactions than any other firm in our market. We continue to grow because of our ability to attract top Realtors® by uniquely combining a high-touch, small company culture with high-tech training, technology and tools. We’ve acquired 17 real estate firms in the last two years, and these firms chose to partner with us because our exceptional brand name and support can help their agents grow their businesses and continue providing the best possible service for their clients.

Thoughts on today’s economy and real estate:
We are sitting in unchartered water-that goes for everyone, not just those in real estate. I’m still keeping the faith because housing remains a good long-term investment that puts a roof over your head.

I like to say that I am “opti-realistic” about the outcome of the economic stimulus by the new administration. Real estate was the first segment to be affected and I believe housing will lead us out of this financial turmoil as well. I believe we will see an upswing in housing at the end of the second quarter or beginning of the third quarter, which will bring us back to a more “normal” market. That means we will see some stabilization in average sales price along with a slow, but eventual increase. I need to be clear that all of this will be affected by job losses and/or growth, so that will likely be a driving force in the market.

The best way to gain consumer loyalty: In tough markets such as we’ve seen in the last couple of years, we continued to hang on to our leadership position. Of course, our Realtors® take a lot of the credit by providing the best service, and we support them with the best technology and the backing of a solid, stable, reliable company.

We also believe that “one-stop-shopping” is the wave of the future, and consumer surveys corroborate that they value having real estate, mortgage and title services under one roof. Finally, our website is the area’s most popular real estate site, attracting approximately one million visits or about 400,000 unique visitors every month. One new feature we introduced was a market update that shows consumers the facts and figures as well as what is really happening in our market.

What advice would you offer to agents in terms of getting the right listing price for their clients?
I would advise them always to be honest with the client up front about how their home competes in the market. Whether they like it or not, they are competing against a high number of foreclosures, so to sell in today’s market, homes must be competitively priced compared to all homes, including foreclosures. We also provide our agents with an excellent Agent Dashboard that gives them all of the transaction information and tools that our agents need to efficiently run their business and give good, solid pricing advice to their clients.

How are you keeping your meetings productive in today’s market?
As the real estate market languishes under the weight of too much inventory and too few buyers, the ranks of real estate agents who had entered the field during the boom years have thinned, and Edina Realty was no exception. Many of those leaving the industry were new and were not established enough to compete against successful, more-experienced agents. When those who are not successful leave the market, this helps the remaining agents to be more productive and more profitable.

But, with 41,000 transaction sides, there is still plenty of business for the agents who remain in the business; we just need to get our share and do the right things. We have been focusing our training in the offices on getting homes priced right and short sales. We are doing the same with foreclosures, and offering tips to our agents on negotiating and pricing.

What’s your biggest challenge in today’s market and how is your company taking it on?
This market has certainly posed its share of challenges to us at Edina Realty as well as my colleagues at other real estate companies. We’ve had to make several adjustments, but Edina Realty remains strong and stable – and we’re one of a few companies that were profitable last year. We’ve consolidated offices and downsized other offices, but that’s not just due to the market, it’s because business is being done within the community and in homes, not in offices. Plus, technology has made it easier for agents to conduct business and for consumers to research and search for homes.

When it comes to recruiting, what strategies have been most effective for your company?
Recruiting is still very important to us and Edina Realty has added several experienced agents – about 59% of this year’s 412 recruits were experienced, a 9.3% increase over 2007. We are always looking for established agents who can handle the ebb and flow of the market. We have acquired about 17 smaller companies over the past two-and-a-half years, and we expect, based on this economy, to continue at that pace. We are not in a position or a market where we want to expand brick and mortar offices, but we want to fill the offices we have with good talent through acquisitions and “tuck-ins” with smaller companies in the communities in which we currently have offices.

How have you tweaked your marketing strategy to better suit today’s marketplace?
We have certainly increased our Internet advertising. Two years ago, we pulled our advertising out of newspapers because that’s not where the consumers go for housing information. We also feel we can do a better job targeting consumers and measuring results online.

It has been a shift for us — we’re using technology to market our company to a whole new degree. We implemented a drip eMarketing campaign to promote our services to 85,000 consumers who had registered on www.edinarealty.com. We also sent e-mails to people who opted in to promotions run by the StarTribune, our main newspaper.

How are you communicating with agents today?
We hold weekly sales meetings with each of our offices. I can’t attend each and every meeting, but we are trying some Web-casting and training on a large scale where 400-500 agents attend. We have an Agent Dashboard on our internal Internet site, which keeps us more informed statistically on the market and helps agents keep track of their listings, sales, calls, and showings at the touch of a finger. We meet monthly with all of our managers and try to give them tips and tools on what is working best in today’s market so they can take this information back to their offices and use these best practice scenarios with their agents.

How are you keeping your website competitive in today’s Internet-centric society?
We have the best website, www.edinarealty.com, in our market-and I would say in the country. Consumers want information. They want facts. They want a search capability that does not require sign-ins or giving out personal information. We were the first firm in our market to launch a mobile-friendly website, m.edinarealty.com, enabling consumers to use their handheld mobile device to access key features on our site. I believe that customers are loyal to us because they can get the information quickly and easily without a lot of hassle. And I think that really enriches their experience when buying or selling a home. And then we can get down to the nitty-gritty-meeting face-to-face with honesty, integrity, and commitment to meet their unique needs.

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